Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cal Performances Delights Audiences with Ratmansky’s Cinderella

By Emma Krasov
Pure, fresh-faced, charming, and infused with a healthy dose of fiery temperaments in supporting characters, Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, performed by the world-famous Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra gloriously opens Cal Performances’ 2015–2016 dance season.
The West Coast premiere of a classical tale, commissioned by the Mariinsky more than a decade ago, brings to Berkeley audiences a Cinderella they might find surprising, deviating from the tradition, and boasting new bold elements of style, but nonetheless beautiful, heartfelt, and technically incomparable.
Presenting this masterpiece from one of the world’s most remarkable choreographers, the highly talented ballet dancers of legendary Russian ballet continue in the vein of centuries-old tradition of strict discipline and impeccable skill and grace, overarching every musical phrase in Sergei Prokofiev’s stirring score, every turn of the plot in Charles Perrault’s magical fairy tale.   

The title part is danced by the Mariinsky’s principal dancers Diana Veshneva, Nadezhda Batoeva (the remaining performance tomorrow, Sunday, October 4 at 3 p.m.), Anastasia Matvienko, and Kristina Shapran.
Konstantin Zverev, Vladimir Shklyarov (10/4), and Filipp Stepin dance the Prince.
The electric high-voltage Stepmother is performed by Anastasia Petushkova (10/4) and Sofia Gumerova.
In the role of Khudishka (thin stepsister) Margarita Frolova (10/4) and Ekaterina Chebykina.
In the role of Kubishka (thick stepsister) Yekaterina Ivannikova, Sofia Skoblikova (10/4), and Anna Tolmacheva 
Fairy-Tramp is performed by Elena Bazhenova (10/4) and Lubov Kozharskaya.

The rest of the amazingly talented cast performs Cinderella’s Father, the Four Seasons, Dance Teachers, Hairdressers, Female Dancers and Male Dancers as well as the entire ball scene that paints the stage red.

Gavriel Heine conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra for the spectacular show with the 1930s style set design by Ilya Utkin and Yevgeny Monakhov, and costume design by Elena Markovskaya.
The only remailing performance takes place Sunday, October 4, at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley Campus, Bancroft Way at Dana Street, Berkeley, California.  
Tickets for the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra’s Cinderella in Zellerbach Hall range from $45.00 to $175.00 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at,   and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to
Images: Vladimir Baranovsky.

Bites and Wines at Sabio On Main

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

Small plates rule at the newly opened Sabio in Pleasanton, California. The restaurant is named after “the Wise” Spanish king Alfonso X (1221-1284) credited with initiating the tapas tradition. The menu format is modeled after Spanish tapas, while the content is globalized with other European, Asian, and American influences (for example, Green Goddess dressing is attributed to San Francisco’s Palace Hotel chef from 1923).

Sabio’s Executive Chef Francis Hogan comes to his new position from the San Francisco’s Bluestem Brasserie, also known for its masterfully crafted shareable small plates.

Chef Hogan’s eclectic creations made with the use of farm-fresh Northern California ingredients are wonderfully paired with small production wines from a thoughtfully compiled international wine list overseen by General Manager Matt Clasen.

"I want to celebrate the connection between food, culture and society,” says Chef Hogan who recently returned from a cooking and tasting tour in Spain. “With my Sabio menu, I pay homage to classic technique and preparation while at the same time putting a modern spin on dishes."

The menu is printed daily, incorporating new products from the morning farm and market deliveries, while Sabio’s full bar provides diners with a selection of specialty cocktails, rare wines, craft beers, aged spirits, and cordials.   

Spanish Mistress cocktail is pleasantly devoid of cloying syrups, instead offering refreshing tartness coming from St. George citrus vodka, St. Germaine, Domaine de Canton ginger, fresh lemon, and cava. Manhattan on Main is a classic affair of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Vya sweet vermouth, and orange bitters.  

Legado Del Conde Albariño 2013 with its silky minerality pairs nicely with Ceviche Mixto of calamari, albacore tuna, and piquillo peppers with Peruvian toasted corn on taro chips.

Llopart Rosé Brut Reserva Cava 2011 is a great aperitif, but also a great match for Wagyu Steak Tartare Spring Roll with Napa cabbage, bone marrow peanut sauce, and bahn mi pickles.

Both appetizers are listed on Cold Small Plates part of the menu, while the Hot Small Plates section features interesting little creations, like Oxtail Empanadas with olives, raisins, and chopped egg served on mildly-hot roasted chili crema.

Salt Cod Croquetas with roasted pepper and Marcona almond relish, covered in poured over Green Goddess dressing present a good looking and great tasting dish, especially when paired with True Myth Chardonnay 2013 from Napa Valley with fresh clean flavor.

Duck Confit Lettuce Wraps with Shaoxing wine sauce, toasted cashews, scallions, and puffed rice noodles excellently pair with The Pairing Pinot Noir 2012 from Santa Barbara.  

Currant and Pine Nut Lamb Meatballs with eggplant-yogurt purée, walnut oil and pomegranate molasses make an agreeable couple with rich, warming, enveloping Las Positas Tempranillo 2012 from Livermore Valley.

When it comes to dessert, also created by Chef Hogan, at least two plates stand out and linger in one’s sweet tooth memory.

Rum Soaked Chocolate Cake with cocoa nib tuile, brûléed bananas and salted hazelnut praline is simply decadent with a sip of Chinaco Extra Anejo Tequila.

Caramelized White Chocolate & Bacon Donuts with sage Chantilly are amazing with the golden eight-years-old Booker’s Whiskey.

Sabio’s bold contemporary look is designed by Jim Maxwell of Architects II with the use of enticing decorative elements, like arched barrel ceiling, wall wine storage, Spanish-inspired patterned tiles in red hues around the kitchen opening, and eclectic light fixtures clustered over the booths, tables, and the hostess’ station. The restaurant has two outdoor seating options – the Rose Ave. Patio for full dining and a lounge that opens onto the adjacent Pastime Plaza.

Sabio is located at 501 Main Street, Pleasanton, California. The restaurant serves dinner nightly with weekday lunch and brunch on Saturday and Sunday to follow shortly. More information and reservations at (925) 800-3090 or

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in San Francisco Opera Delights with Many Gifts

By Emma Krasov

With all due respect for the time-honored great titles extolling ancient tragedies and galvanizing dearly departed life situations unrecognizable by the present-time audiences, it’s always refreshing to hear something more contemporary, more daring, humorous [and/or macabre] on the sanctified opera stage.   

Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, now playing at The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House through September 29 perfectly fits the bill. Even though Mr. Sondheim – a genius composer and lyricist of our time who authored many iconic Broadway musicals – once admitted his own reluctance to enjoy opera, his Sweeney Todd is a work of tremendous operatic diapason, a powerful musical thriller, enthusiastically accepted by the today’s viewers in this Company premiere offering a string of wonderful role debuts.     
Baritone Brian Mulligan plays the title role with impressive dramatic passion. Visibly restrained dark force of his character’s focused emotion dictates and justifies his horrific acts.  
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe portrays his co-conspirator Mrs. Lovett with keen humor and believability – she’s genuine as a cannibalism peddler and as a middle-aged dreamer of a quiet married life by the sea.

Both leading singers perform their roles for the first time. Other remarkable role debuts are presented by soprano Heidi Stober (Johanna), soprano Elizabeth Futral (Beggar Woman), baritone Elliot Madore (Anthony Hope), tenor Matthew Grills (Tobias Ragg), bass-baritone Wayne Tigges (Judge Turpin), and tenor AJ Glueckert (Beadle Bamford). Tenor David Curry makes his Company debut in the role of Adolfo Pirelli.
The entire ensemble cast lives and moves onstage like a single organism, with outstanding musical and chorographical prowess masterfully performing Sondheim’s classic tunes, “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” “Worst Pies in London,” “Johanna,” “A Little Priest,” “By the Sea,”  “Not When I’m Around,” and numerous others.

Sweeney Todd has won ten combined Tonys for the original Broadway production and 2005 revival. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler from an adaptation by Christopher Bond. Originally directed on Broadway by Harold Prince. Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

San Francisco Opera co-production with Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and Houston Grand Opera is conducted by Patrick Summers (James Lowe on 9/26 and 9/29) and directed by Lee Blakeley. Production designer Tanya McCallin, lighting designer Rick Fisher, chorus director Ian Robertson, sound designer Tod Nixon, choreographer Lorena Randi. 
The remaining performances run on September 26 at 7:30 pm and September 29 at 7:30 pm.
Tickets at (415) 864-3330 or San Francisco Opera Box Office at 301 Van Ness Avenue. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only. The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street.
Images: courtesy SFOpera.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Honor Kitchen & Cocktails A Highlight of East Bay Nightlife

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
The new executive chef at Honor Kitchen & Cocktails in Emeryville, California, characterizes his fare as “simple, done right,” but some might argue that menu items like Bone Marrow Brûlée and Lobster Leek Sausage can hardly be called simple.

Ben Baehrend, a native of Boston with bicoastal and Colorado work experience in gastropub cuisine, notices that Honor is not your usual watering hole with a blaring TV, but rather an English/Irish style pub, where people come to sit down and have a conversation while enjoying their food and drink.  

By looking at the Honor’s cocktail list comprised by the head bartender Eric Grenier it’s easy to see the amount of creativity that goes into each listed libation.

In my experience, Downward Spiral (rye whiskey, amaro ciociaro, raspberry liqueur, orange bitters) was a perfect match for the abovementioned Bone Marrow Brûlée. Served in a split bone, the marrow is garnished with bulgogi jalapeño and garlic confit, and generously sprinkled with brown sugar.  

The house-cured salt cod (Brandade) with cornichon gastrique on crostini was perfectly paired with the seasonal Cortez the Killer cocktail (tequila, mescal, heirloom tomato water, lemon, celery bitters and chili tincture). As I’ve learned from one of the skilled bartenders, heirloom tomato water is made by boiling fresh tomatoes and dripping their precious juices through a cheese cloth. This savory cocktail is available only when heirlooms are in season, to catch it while you can!

Honor Kitchen shares an in-house butcher with its sister restaurants. In an experimental dish, not yet on the menu, Chef Baehrend combined the most delectable butcher’s lamb pancetta with brûléed (very sweet) Asian pear and wonderfully tart Terra goat cheese.

Gorgonzola Torte Salad presented a kind of a savory cheese cake on a bed of chopped kale, walnuts, toybox tomatoes, citrus segments (lime, grapefruit) and fresh basil with balsamic drizzle.

Another remarkable salad was the night’s special – smoked trout with bib lettuce, string beans, sweet summer corn, red bell peppers, and barbeque ale sauce.

One more great cocktail, Leap of Faith (rye, spiced blood orange liqueur, cocchi rosa vermouth, gum syrup, lemon, house-made pimento bitters) made a good pairing with hand-made sausages, ground and cased by the in-house butcher.

Lobster Leek Sausage was surely “done right” with a side of caramelized fennel spaetzle and honey Dijon mustard.

Lamb merguez sausage was used on a rosemary flat bread pizzetta smothered with roasted bell pepper remoulade and melted taleggio cheese, and piled up with arugula, mint, and pickled red onions with a distinct bite.  

Honor desserts are also prepared by Chef Baehrend. Chocolate cheesecake with a layer of soft fudge and upside down Asian pear blue corn cake with house-made mocca ice cream were nicely complimented by dessert wines – a 10-year-old tawny port and exquisite Hungarian tokaji.

“I’m French-trained, but I don’t cook French,” says the Chef who doesn’t shy away from the usage of salt, sugar, and other condiments, rather pronounced in his creations. “I like to take from different culinary traditions. Back East we were doing this gastropub idea for years. Here, my goal is to bring the skill, the technique – because fresh high quality ingredients are already here. They’re always available in California.”

Since it opened in 2011, Honor has become a destination gastropub for the East Bay residents and commuters from San Francisco. The venue is known not only for its food and drink, but also for its relaxed atmosphere, late-night kitchen, and friendly service. Décor includes vintage art, old metal signs, antique ice boxes, a red granite bar top and a tin bucket filled with beer bottles in ice for honorable usage.

Honor Kitchen & Cocktails is located at 1411 Powell Street, Emeryville, California. The kitchen and bar open at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The kitchen closes at 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at midnight on Friday and Saturday. Call for more information (510) 653-8667 or visit: